A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Lives aren't supposed to be perfect -- imperfection can be wonderful. It's important to spend quality time with loved ones. Themes include self-control, gratitude, and compassion.
Positive Role Models
Coraline's parents show humility and learn important lessons from their daughter. Coraline herself is brave and resourceful, despite being impatient at times. The Other Mother wants Coraline to behave a certain way and pursues her goals at any cost. Intergenerational friendships are formed.
The two main characters, Coraline and her mother, are complex women who are neither completely good nor bad. The animated characters are mostly White, as are the characters' voice actors including Dakota Fanning (Coraline), Teri Hatcher (Mother/Other Mother), and Ian McShane (Bobinsky). Keith David, who's Black, voices the Cat. Coraline's neighbors include two aging actresses who are told they're past their prime but refuse to stop believing in their talent.
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Violence & Scariness
The movie has a very dark, creepy tone overall, and the Other Mother sometimes takes on a frightening appearance. It's implied that she has killed at least three children. Her minions try to catch Coraline and the Cat, but they don't succeed. Brief strangling. A character loses a hand, which then attacks Coraline.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two characters with large breasts wear tiny costumes for a performance (one in a reference to Botticelli's famous Birth of Venus painting).
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Infrequent use of words like "crap" and "oh my God." Insults include "jerkwad," "idiot," "evil witch," and "stupid."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Coraline's mother thinks Mr. Bobinksy drinks too much.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Coraline is a stop-motion animated film based on a book by Neil Gaiman. The movie is quite dark, and the "other" world that Coraline (Dakota Fanning) discovers turns into a frightening, dangerous place where she could very well die (and other ghost children already have). Scary situations include extremely creepy characters and acts that seem very violent but don't have graphic consequences, like when Coraline throws a cat at someone. Language is mostly insults (like "jerkwad" and "idiot"), and sexuality is limited to two scantily dressed actresses in one scene. It's suggested that one of the characters drinks too much, but nothing is shown. Characters demonstrate self-control, compassion, and gratitude. The movie deals with mature themes -- being careful what you wish for, thinking the grass is always greener, seeking a perfect life, and being disappointed in your parents -- that are best suited for tweens and up. The cast lacks racial diversity, with animated characters and voice actors mostly White, but main characters Coraline and her mother (Teri Hatcher) are complex women who are neither completely good nor bad. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Director Henry Selick, a stop-motion master best known for The Nightmare Before Christmas, creates a magical, colorful nether-world that's also dark and disturbing. At first, in addition to offering Coraline attentive "Other" parents, the alternate universe boasts a dazzling garden and a fantastic circus and theater acts, courtesy of the Other neighbors. Coraline, along with the audience, gets swept into the magic -- but there's an unnerving edge to all of the perfection. Everyone has buttons for eyes, except for Coraline and a mysterious talking cat (Keith David) that warns Coraline that her Other Mother isn't as warm and loving as she seems.
The 3-D effects (Coraline is Hollywood's first 3-D stop-motion film) are cool without being overwhelming, and the story is a two-pronged cautionary tale -- for parents and kids not to take each other for granted, and for people not to dwell on whether the grass is greener, because it could all be a huge, horrifying charade. Coraline ultimately learns that sometimes imperfect, messy lives aren't always as bad as they seem. Considering how formulaic so many family movies are, Coraline is a refreshing and inventive film. While too intense for some kids, it's a memorable treat for families with thrill-seeking tweens and up.
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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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